The Food Web of the Sahara Desert

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  • 0:03 An Oasis in the Desert
  • 1:09 What Is a Food Web?
  • 2:11 The Sahara Desert
  • 2:57 Sahara Desert Food Web
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

This lesson looks at the food web of the Sahara Desert. We'll go over what a food web is and how it applies to the Sahara Desert. We'll also touch on some of the features of this desert and where it's located.

An Oasis in the Desert

Lost in the desert, thirsty and overheated, you wander aimlessly. The sand dunes stretch on forever with mountains of sand reaching over 300 feet above you. A small herd of camels roam in the distance. The desert rolls on for over a quarter of the African continent, and it seems like there may never be an end to it.

Suddenly, you see a beautiful lake with crystal clear water and surrounding palm trees and coconuts. You run towards this oasis and dive in, but it turns out to be only sand. It's only a mirage. Although the oasis was not real this time, the vast expanse of this desert certainly is.

It's called the Sahara Desert, and it's one of the largest in the world. To study more about this seemingly deserted land, we need to understand food webs, which will teach us more about the plants and animals living there.

What Is a Food Web?

A food web is a diagram showing the transfer of energy between species. Energy is transferred as food, so a food web shows what eats what in an ecosystem. The food web is organized into layers called trophic levels. These layers include producers, which are the bottom layer, primary and secondary consumers, and tertiary consumers, which are the top layer.

  • Producers are organisms that make their own food - usually green plants - but they can also be algae, microscopic organisms, or bacteria
  • Primary consumers only eat producers, making them herbivores
  • Secondary consumers are carnivores, which eat the primary consumers
  • Tertiary consumers are top predators, which eat both primary and secondary consumers

All of the layers and their respective organisms keep the food web in balance.

The Sahara Desert

Although we think of deserts as being hot and dry, they actually only have to do with the amount of rainfall an area gets. Technically, the first two largest deserts are Antarctica and the Arctic in the north. The Sahara Desert is the third largest desert and, with a hot and dry climate, fits our traditional view of the desert. It's located across northern Africa, and temperatures can reach up to 134 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, yet at night the temperature rapidly drops into the 50s. With less than three inches of rain per year, you might be wondering what could possibly survive in this harsh place?

Sahara Desert Food Web

Although there are fewer species in deserts than tropical locations, some plants and animals manage to make a home in them. In the Sahara Desert, the producers are small shrubs and some species of standalone trees, sparsely covering the sand. Tamarix, acacia trees, and date palms put down extremely long roots to tap deep water sources. Vegetation tends to grow near the edges of the desert at the northern and southern regions and near oases with good water sources.

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